July 21, 2024
The 6 Best Radar Detectors for 2023 – Radar Detector Reviews

<blockquote class=”body-blockquote”><strong>The Expert: </strong>I’ve spent my entire journalism career testing car electronics and have owned several radar detectors going back to the mid-90s. As editor of Car Audio & Electronics magazine, I coordinated an annual radar detector test and have kept my eyes and hands on the products ever since, keeping tabs on new technology and features. I’ve also tested enough detectors over the years to get a sense of what makes them good or bad based on their controls and feature sets. </blockquote><h2 class=”body-h2″>A Word of Warning</h2><p>Before explaining how to pick a good radar detector, I think it’s important to point out that radar detectors are not universally legal in North America. In the US, drivers are not legally allowed to use radar detectors in Virginia and Washington DC. They’re also banned in most Canadian provinces, including Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. </p><p>The details of the laws vary from state to state, including the penalties for breaking them, but we would strongly recommend turning your detector off and putting it away while driving through states where they are banned. Highway patrol and police frequently use radar-detector detectors to sniff them out, so using a detector in a state where it’s illegal may actually increase your chances of getting pulled over.</p><h2 class=”body-h2″>What to Consider When Buying a Radar Detector</h2><h3 class=”body-h3″>How Radar Detectors Work</h3><p>Radar detectors allow you to find radar and laser signals used by law enforcement to measure vehicle speed. Using one feels like using an AM/FM radio: The receiver in the detector tunes into active radar signals, just like a radio tunes in to active radio station frequencies. In the US, law enforcement typically uses one of three radar and laser types–the X-, K-, and Ka-bands.</p><p>X band is the oldest form of radar used by law enforcement and is now uncommon. Its successor, K band, operates on a higher frequency and has lower power output, making it harder to more difficult to detect at long distance. Ka band has a narrower beam pattern and lower power output than both X and K band, making it the most difficult type of radar to detect at long distances.</p><p>Police laser guns emit short bursts of infrared light that reflect off a vehicle and return to the device. Unlike radar that can usually be detected in advance, police point lasers at a specific vehicle, so drivers don’t get advance warning.</p><h3 class=”body-h3″>Range<br></h3><p>If you’re looking to avoid a ticket, you need a radar detector that will notify you of an upcoming checkpoint far enough in advance for you to slow down if you’re speeding. That means your radar detector’s range effectively determines how useful it can be. Some detectors only track 100 feet away, where others can sense many miles away.</p><p>At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that a detector’s effective range varies at any given moment, based on dense objects that could cause interference and even weather. Given that, many companies avoid telling you a detector’s range and lean on non-specific terms like “long range.” That said, we’ve tested the radar detectors on this to get a sense of their relative ranges and accuracy.</p><h3 class=”body-h3″>Antennas</h3><p>A radar detector’s antennas are like its “ears.” They allow the detector to search for radar and lasers in many different directions. The best radar detectors will have more antennas for detecting radar, which means you get better protection. Detectors with a single antenna only look for radar in front of a vehicle. More expensive models with multiple antennas can look behind and to the sides. The best of the best offer 360-degree detection, but full coverage is very expensive.</p><h3 class=”body-h3″>Visual, audible and voice alerts</h3><p>Different detectors have different ways of letting you know when they pick up a radar or laser signal. Some high-end detectors use voice alerts, which tell you specifically what’s coming. Others make specific sounds for each threat (X, K, Ka, laser) that you’ll need to learn. Most also have a small screen on the detector with visual guides that show you the radar type, the strength of the signal, and the direction where it’s coming from.</p><h3 class=”body-h3″>False Alert Filtering</h3><p>Radar detectors do sometimes pick up radar signals from other devices and mistake them for police radar guns. Anything from a radar-controlled <a href=” door opener</a> to a <a href=” could trigger a false alert–even adaptive cruise control on another car. Radar detectors use software to filter out frequent false alerts, learning where they frequently occur, and every one has a mute button so you can manually silence false alerts.</p><h3 class=”body-h3″>Highway and city modes (sensitivity and selectivity)</h3><p>Some detectors with longer range will feature a “city mode,” which reduces its sensitivity for city streets and more crowded areas. This allows you to reduce the potential for false alarms when you’re driving in a crowded area with more possibilities for interference and false alarms.</p><p>Some detectors also have a “highway mode,” which does the opposite–increasing its range, possibly at the expense of accuracy, so you can get more of a heads up when you’re most likely to need it… If you’re speeding. (But you’d never do that, right?)</p><p>Both of these modes adjust the detector’s selectivity, a related spec that refers to a detector’s ability to detect police radar while ignoring other radar sources that operate on neighboring frequencies. A detector with high selectivity can differentiate between radar and laser and other signals. The best radar detectors offer a good balance between sensitivity and selectivity, and use software to note spots with frequent false alerts and filter them out. </p><h3 class=”body-h3″>GPS</h3><p>Radar detectors with GPS give you the ability to mark and save the locations on recurrent speed traps and red light cameras so it can alert you before it detects a signal. More advanced models can access databases with crowdsourced trap and camera location data to give you more accurate warnings outside your everyday driving area, though you typically have to subscribe and pay an annual fee to access them.</p><p>Some detectors with GPS can also automatically switch between “city” and “highway” mode based on how fast you’re going.</p><h3 class=”body-h3″>Instant-On Protection</h3><p>Some police radar guns feature “<a href=” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>instant-on</a>” radar, which shoots a quick signal burst that measures your driving speed before a radar detector could pick it up. Some radar detectors have a feature called “instant-on protection” that can detect instant-on radar if police use it on a vehicle ahead of you.</p><h3 class=”body-h3″>Smartphone app</h3><p>Some radar detectors can sync with a companion smartphone app, which unlocks additional features. Some allow you to mark speed traps and traffic cameras like you would with a GPS-enabled detector. App-based GPS may include additional information, like posted speed limits and real-time traffic alerts.</p><h2 class=”body-h2″>How We Tested The Best Radar Detectors</h2><p>To test these radar detectors, I <a href=” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>rented a radar gun</a> and went to a deserted community-college campus in Southern California on a weekend. My assistant pointed a K-band radar gun at my test car, a 2017 Audi Q7, while I drove up a hill with a slight curve so that the vehicle would have to drive into the radar gun’s line of sight about 100 yards away. This gave me a sense of how quickly each detector could discover the radar signal, and most within a few feet of each other.</p><p>I also drove an urban loop to get a feel for how well the detectors pick up radar and false alerts and how well they filter them out. I also examined them while the car was stopped to fully explore the feature range of each detector, including their controls and user interface.</p>”/>

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